On January 29th, 2017, the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City was victim to a vicious and targeted attack against innocent worshippers; a gunman entered, opened fire, and killed six men in the process, seriously injuring 19 others. These men were pillars of their community; they were parents, partners, friends, colleagues, and neighbours – they were Muslims. In 2021, the federal government designated this day as the National Day of Remembrance of the Quebec City Mosque Attack and Action Against Islamophobia. Today, we honour the victims and stand in solidarity with the survivors, as well as their families and friends whose profound loss cannot be articulated.
Canada is not immune to gun violence, nor are we precluded from conversations about radical hatred and intolerance. Recent data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute suggests that unfavourable views of Islam are alarmingly prevalent across the country to varying degrees, peaking in Quebec. However, it would be reductive to conflate this attack with Quebec alone, Islamophobia has permeated every corner of our country – this is all of our concerns. Canada totes itself as a beacon of acceptance, safety, and goodwill – a mosaic of innumerable cultures, languages, and faiths all existing in perfect harmony. Yet, the truth is undeniable. We have an Islamophobia problem and there is an urgent need for tangible measures to combat this encroaching rot.
Islamophobia is not conceptual, it is a constant threat to Muslim communities, who must tirelessly battle misinformation and distrust from an uninformed public. "Thoughts and prayers", so to speak, are not an adequate response to hate-motivated acts of this magnitude. We must all do our part to stand firmly in alignment with principles of tolerance, vocally advocate for change, and hold our family, friends, and leaders accountable for reprehensible views, before they act on their fanatical beliefs.
Though our hearts weigh heavy as we reflect on the events of that fateful day, we are also in awe of the fortitude and compassion of Muslim communities in the face of unspeakable violence. The act of terror at the Quebec City Mosque was not just an assault on innocent worshippers, it was an attack on the very fabric of our society and a reminder of the hatred and division that threatens to tear us apart. Yet, in the midst of such loss, we saw tremendous empathy as Muslim communities throughout Canada and the world over enveloped Quebec in a blanket of support and love. It was a testament to the true nature of Islam, where faith, generosity, understanding, and peace prevail.
As the nation pauses to reflect, we are reminded of the fragility of peace and the persistent threat of hate. We refuse to name the extremist who committed these atrocities – he does not deserve an ounce of notoriety, nor any recognition. We choose instead to honour the memory of the six men whose lives were stolen and whose families were ripped apart by this senseless act; wounds of this enormity are a life sentence, but we hope that they are finding healing in their community and their faith.
Today, we remember Ibrahima Barry, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Azzedine Soufiane, and Aboubaker Thabti. May their memory live on in the hearts of those whose lives they touched and may we never forget their names.